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  Girl with All the Gifts, The I Believe The Children Are Our Future
Year: 2016
Director: Colm McCarthy
Stars: Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Sennia Nanua, Glenn Close, Fisayo Akinade, Anamaria Marinca, Anthony Welsh, Dominique Tipper, Daniel Eghan, Tessa Morris, Elise Reed
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Melanie (Sennia Nanua) awakens in her cell, and climbs into her wheelchair ready to face the day, strapping herself in for when the soldiers arrive to escort her to the classroom. She lives in a high security complex, as do all the other hundred or so children there, and their freedom of movement is greatly restricted thanks to the danger they pose. Their teacher is Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton) who tutors them in the classics, and seems nicer than the military men who dismiss them and insult them, but they do so for a reason: if they were allowed to come and go as they pleased, they would waste no time in tearing the throats out of those not afflicted by the fungus that has taken over their brains...

This was yet another young adult novel adaptation (author Mike Carey penned the screenplay), though with stronger violence and fruitier language than most of its peers; some noted the similarity between its plot and computer game The Last of Us, but there was also a connection to the cult sixties science fiction film These are the Damned, which also featured a top secret base where young children were being held because of their deadly properties to anyone not like them who were in their vicinity. Like that work, there was a bleakness to the atmosphere and plotline, as if the "normal" characters were fighting a losing battle in trying to re-establish the status quo, and for that it did feel like it was tailing off to a standstill after a strong opening half hour.

Not that the rest of this was a dead loss, there remained a collection of striking images that director Colm McCarthy concocted to bring the book's vision of a post-apocalyptic Britain to the big screen, especially when the protagonists made it to London, as an urban area devastated by the ravages of a science fiction affliction usually bring out the best in an imaginative filmmaker, and so it was here. What was more remarkable was how tiny the budget was in comparison to how slick it looked and sounded, the producers evidently making not very much go a very long way: for the amount of money that would cover the salaries of two or three big stars, if that, they had come up with an effort that appeared as professional as anything out of the Hollywood major studios.

Although technically, this was a part-American film, bringing to mind something else from the sixties, when those studios would invest in British productions and created a mini-boom in the local industry. Whether we would ever see those days again was debatable, but there was a lot reminiscent of how well Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later performed across the world that was obviously what this had in mind as its target audience - another influence to mark up. Although the plot began in that military bunker, it did not stay there, and soon Helen and a freed, friendly but dangerous Melanie have taken a ride with three soldiers, led by Sergeant Parks (Paddy Considine, always good value), and Dr Caldwell (Glenn Close, fun to see in a zombie flick), a scientist who believes she can develop a cure by using the girl as an experimental model.

Only Helen is sympathetic to Melanie, which brings up the theme of how compassion can be a help or a liability when lives are at stake, and Arterton was well-cast as the voice of reason who may be the only solution to what has ultimately become a largely hopeless cause. Naturally the soldiers sneer at her wish to treat the girl with some care, and the doctor is not exactly keen on viewing her as anything more than a laboratory rat she can have an occasional conversation with, but there is an aspect they can have no control over, if they were ever in control at all, which was the fact that Melanie, with all her non-negotiable tendencies to rip out throats and eat animals raw, is the future and there's nothing they can do to stop that. Nanua was often left to carry sequences on her own and was most impressive, whether feral or more relatable, though the eventual compromise was more of a surrender to the barbarians than you think was the intention, but there was a lot to appreciate here, even if it did not quite become its own entity in the zombie entertainment landscape. Music by Cristobal Tapia de Veer.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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